Upon entering the room, it was clear that the stage was well and truly set for the brilliant drama about to unfold. With the audience placed on opposite sides of the stage, we became well and truly the jury giving our verdict on the moral dilemma that Ruth, and too many women have had to face. The story of The Thrill of Love by Amanda Whittington was beautifully executed thanks to Laura Jayne Bateman’s direction and her cast.
The Thrill of Love follows the true story of Ruth Ellis, shooting her lover, the abusive David Blakely on Easter Sunday 1955, and immediately handing herself in to the police. Inspector Jack Gale oversees the entirety of the play, trying to go back into Ruth’s past and realise her motives for doing so. Through this brief history of Ruth’s life we meet the women who made her: from hard-hitting Manageress Sylvia Shaw (Lou Knapp), innocent and optimistic Doris Judd and the ambitious socialite Valerie Mewes (aka. Vicki Martin) played by Sasha Butler.
The cast seem to work in harmony with one another, creating the feeling that we were right there at the time rather than being an outsider watching in. The authenticity to the East End accent was maintained by all throughout the play, combined with the costume and set design well and truly made it feel as if we were transported back to the 1950s.
“All actors met and raised the level of acting I expected and this in itself allowed the performance to come alive against the backdrop of Ruth’s impending death”
Ben Standish’s portrayal of Inspector Jack Gale allows us to track the downward spiral of Ruth’s life and eventually empathise with the adversity that she had to suffer through. A narrator to the plot, he allows for the story to flow and become ever more harrowing. Ruth herself, played by Sophie Walton, exhibited the poise and grace of this truly remarkable woman. Her emotional performance rendered all of the audience to fully appreciate the extent to which she had to resort to in order to survive. The characters of Ruth and Jack Gale are well supported by the strong women that contributed to Ruth’s unfortunately short life. Special mention needs to be given to Gigi George as Doris Judd, who achieves the right level of decorum and reserved nature against the bold and brash characters who she is put against. Although, it may have taken a few nervous introductions for the actors to settle, it needs to be noted that all actors met and raised the level of acting I expected and this in itself allowed the performance to come alive against the backdrop of Ruth’s impending death.
“Acting alone did not cause this to become a must see”
Acting alone did not cause this to become a must see for the New Theatre but the use of lighting and music by James Fox needs ample recognition. By ending the play with a simple sound effect of Ruth being hanged, made the ending resonantly poignant. Also, the change of lighting allowed for the scene to become revitalised. From the single bright light making you feel as if you were under interrogation to the white lights of the courtroom trial, it felt like you were transitioning from place to place with ease.
Both Laura Jayne Bateman and Aneesa Kaleem must be commended for this heart-rendering production that puts into perspective how still today women are having to endure the likes of what Ruth suffered through. Not only this, they have chosen a fantastic charity of Women’s Aid to raise money for. For anyone who loves a famous law case, or has an interest in domestic violence and the injustices of the legal system then I would advise them to go see The Thrill of Love.
‘The Thrill of Love’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre from Wednesday 2nd March until Saturday 5th March. For more information, see here.